Liberia

Liberia: Preventing Another Epidemic

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by Sarah Austria | Dec 14, 2016

The deaths of Kadiatu’s family members occurred during the height of Liberia’s Ebola epidemic of 2014 - but the pain of her loss is still fresh. Her own survival seems miraculous. But what’s to prevent another Ebola epidemic from occurring in her community? Find out.

Kadiatu’s story began in 2014 when her husband took care of a community member infected with Ebola in the area of Grand Cape Mount, Liberia. With little knowledge of how the virus spread, Kadiatu then in turn cared for her husband when he became ill.

There were many myths about Ebola during the epidemic. A common misconception was that hospitals cause Ebola, and that if a person developed the disease it was better to stay home. This misinformation helped the disease spread like wildfire.

While caring for her sick husband, Kadiatu heard a message on the radio - a message from Medical Teams International. The message explained that Ebola spreads when people come into close contact with those who had been infected. Sick patients must travel to hospitals, where they could be isolated and treated.

After hearing the information, Kadiatu called an ambulance and her husband was taken to the hospital. Three days later, Kadiatu and her 2-year-old daughter began feeling sick and exhibiting signs of Ebola. She worried about her health, the health of her 2- year-old, and the health of her unborn baby - Kadiatu was in the late stages of pregnancy.

Once again, she called the ambulance - this time for Kadiatu and her daughter. They briefly visited her husband before seeking treatment themselves. Tragically, it would be the last time Kadiatu saw him - he died just a few days later.

Doctors confirmed a diagnosis of Ebola for Kadiatu and her daughter. The disease advanced rapidly and her 2-year-old daughter died. Kadiatu miscarried during her own illness. The weight of her sadness is unimaginable. For a time, Kadiatu waited for death, and even welcomed it.

That gave her hope and courage, and along with her care in the hospital - she miraculously survived.

Thanks to you, Medical Teams International was present in Liberia prior to the Ebola epidemic. As a result, Medical Teams International was able to act as a first responder during the crisis. Outreach systems already in place made it possible to help dispel Ebola misconceptions during the epidemic - and prevent further deaths.

During the epidemic of 2014-2015, Liberia had 3,000 confirmed cases of Ebola, and 7,400 suspected or probable cases. Many led to tragedies like Kadiatu’s. New, isolated cases of Ebola continue to occur in Liberia. The virus is still active and permanent eradication is nearly impossible. But thanks to your support, progress has been made.

Communities have been educated on how to handle new cases, and prevent future epidemics. World Health Organization reports that community education programs are the single most effective way to prevent Ebola. Your support of Medical Teams International makes these programs possible. Community outreach and training provides communities in Liberia with the education and tools to prevent and contain future cases of the deadly disease.

Kadiatu lost so much. She is thankful for the resources helping to strengthen health systems in the communities hardest hit by the Ebola crisis. Communities throughout Liberia are empowered with the education on how to stop the disease. The message has been received - as a result the people of Liberia are healthier and communities stronger.